Phillip Croker, of The Oval, Gloucester, was caught fishing for elvers – baby eels – at Oldbury tidal sluice, on the tidal River Severn, on 14 March 2019.

The case was heard at Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court on 28 October 2021, when the 60-year-old was ordered to pay the Environment Agency costs of £10,425.40, a £300 fine and a £30 victim surcharge. Croker’s fishing net was also seized and destroyed.

During the evening of 14 March 2019 Environment Agency Fisheries Enforcement Officers caught Croker fishing illegally for elvers, including fishing with a net in water within 10 metres below the tidal sluice, and using a light to attract elvers into his net.

Elvers migrating from the Sargasso Sea are attracted to freshwater and gather in large numbers below the tidal gate, which controls freshwater entering the saltwater estuary at Oldbury.

When Croker was discovered, officers found around 700 grams of elvers in Croker’s net.  At the time of the offence elver prices were approximately £150 per kilogram. The elvers were released back into the Severn.

The fishing of eels on the River Severn is regulated by the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975 as amended by the Marine and Coastal Act 2009 by way of authorisation.

Anglers fishing for eels on the Severn need Environment Agency authorisation and receive a tag that must be attached to their net to show they are fishing legally.

While Croker pleaded guilty to fishing without an Environment Agency tag for his net, he denied setting up his net within 10m below a tidal sluice, fishing unaided by tying his net to the sluice gates and using a light. Magistrates found him guilty on all counts.

Richard Dearnley, Fisheries Enforcement Officer for the Environment Agency, said:

Elver authorisations come with strict conditions aimed at preventing their over-exploitation and to encourage a fair and sustainable fishery.

There has been a huge decline in eel stocks in recent years and their illegal exploitation undermines the Environment Agency and Sustainable Eel Group efforts to conserve and improve eel stocks.

This offence was financially motivated to increase the likelihood of higher catches of elvers due to an unfair advantage.

This case shows we pursue offenders through the courts and will not hesitate to take enforcement action where people flout the rules.

Anyone with information about illegal fishing activities should call the Environment Agency’s 24-hour incident hotline on 0800 807060 or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.